Think you need travel insurance? Think again.
You might require something else — either a specialized insurance product that protects only one aspect of your trip, or something that isn’t insurance at all.
Call it alt insurance
No, we’re not about to get political. Alt insurance is real and it can protect you regardless of ideological leanings. Sometimes, it isn’t insurance at all, but a different form of protection.
Alt insurance for your car rental
If you just want to protect your rental car, and nothing else, you don’t have to buy a whole travel insurance policy. A company like Insuremyrentalcar.com can undercut car rental companies and online agencies with less expensive policies. Rates start at $5 per day, as well as per-trip policies that start at $17.50 or annual policies for $94. The policies offer loss damage waiver coverage of up to $100,000. “We’re giving car renters another choice,” says Ernesto Suarez, the CEO of Insuremyrentalcar.com.
Purchase luggage protection by itself
A new company called Blue Ribbon Bags, a delayed baggage service, charges $5 per passenger. If an airline loses your luggage, the service will help locate and expedite delivery of the checked bag. If it’s lost more than 96 hours, it will pay $1,000 per bag. “Our service must be purchased prior to departure via your travel agent, online agency or our website,” explains Gabriel Menkin, Blue Ribbon’s CEO.
Get airline ticket protection
That’s the idea behind AirCare, an insurance product offered by Berkshire Hathaway. It’s dead simple. Starting at $34 for domestic air travel, AirCare protects you for specific incidents, such as a tarmac delay, loss of luggage or a missed connection. For example, if your domestic flight is canceled, AirCare will pay you $150. If you miss a domestic connection, you get $100. Baggage delayed by more than 12 hours? That’s $500. Claims are handled five times faster than normal, making them virtually instantaneous.
Or get a “free” ticket
A similar product, Freebird, promises to let you skip the line and instantly book a new ticket after a flight cancellation, significant delay, or missed connection. Just buy its protection plan, which starts at $19, and if your flight is disrupted — which it defines as a flight cancellation, a delay of more than four hours, or a missed connection due to a delay — Freebird will pay for a new flight on any airline at no extra charge, or, in Freebird’s words, for “free.”
Buy a security membership
A company like Medjet can cover an event that travel insurance might not. Medjet has access to a global fleet of more than 250 private air ambulances that can transport members to a home hospital if they’re hospitalized more than 150 miles from home. A one-year individual membership, which includes overseas coverage, costs $270, which is less than one-third the cost of an annual travel insurance policy. For $419 per year, Medjet can also add crisis response coverage to a wide variety travel security issues, including disappearance, political threat, kidnapping, terrorism, natural disaster and more. Also, it’s faster than insurance. A membership program pays for everything up front, so you don’t have to wait for a claim to be processed. Also, many travel insurance policies don’t offer real-time support. Membership programs do.
A few important disclaimers: Review the terms of these protection offers very carefully, since they are more limited than traditional travel insurance. In fact, some of them aren’t travel insurance at all, so they aren’t regulated in the same way insurance would be.
Also, while these might be excellent supplements to travel insurance, they may not be the right choice for you. Check with your credit card to make sure you aren’t already covered for some of these eventualities. If you are, you could be buying too much insurance or protection, and that would be a waste of money.
Finally, since I run one of the largest consumer advocacy sites, some of the companies I mentioned in this story are either current or former sponsors of my site. None of the businesses in this article are aware that I’m writing it or had any editorial control.
Like some things, “alt” insurance might be right for you, but not necessarily for everyone else.